Saturday, December 16, 2006

A learning curve

"I don’t like change but I know it’s good for me and inevitable so I welcome it as best I can. There’s a poem by Johann Frank that says it better than I will, “Defy the old dragon, defy fear. The world may rage and quake but I shall remain, singing, in perfect peace.” Yeah, things happen, things you don’t expect or want or like. The world rages and you become someone you didn’t ever know you’d be. And there you are in your clothes, in your life, this is my future, this is me. This is me and I want things I never thought I would….and to be grateful for it, in perfect peace."
Ephraim Brown, Everwood

I wrote this entry a few days ago and the one thing I worried about was that Kristen would read it and be bothered. I've been trying to say something, to get something out of my body, to learn something, though, and I didn't know what it was but of all the times I tried this one came out of me so I hit the publish button and let it lie. I didn't think Kristen was reading here and I tried my best to make it unbothersome.

You can see where this is going, can't you? I got an e-mail from Kristen this morning which said, in essence, that she'd always liked hearing from me and was sorry to hear that I didn't like her. Gah! So after reading that we both feel shitty. I felt like I pretty much deserved to, though, so I was OK with that part but I felt awful that she felt bad. Fortunately Kristen had given me a gift by sending me the e-mail, the gift of letting me know that she'd read it and an opportunity to try to explain myself. I immediately sent a reply clumsily rewording and clarifying and sent if off even though I knew it wasn't quite right but that it was at least a start.

Then Kristen gave me a second gift. It was like opening a present and it's a pretty stained glass box which is a great gift in and of itself. Then you realize there's something rattling around in there and it's 4 perfect va1ium. She gave me a prompt to think about what I'd written and why.

I was late to go visit Santa with Alita so I hit send and bolted into the shower. I hadn't even gotten my hair lathered when I realized what I've been trying to get at with all these posts I keep telling you I'll write and don't. The one about music, the one about Jay's show, the one about Alita, the one about Christmas Eve, the one about my family, and this one that I did write about registrations and password protection were all about the same thing. Turns out I could identify the symptoms but not the disease, as it were.

I associate the holiday season with a deep feeling of loss. (I can hear some of you saying, "Duh." I know.) I have never been someone who likes change but, as it says above, I know it's good for me so I do my best. When the going gets rough, though, my comfort zone is in that which does not change - TV, movies, my home, certain friends, books, brunch, lobsterbake, Sunday conversations with ChemE and, it turns out, bloggers. I wrote a lot about my feelings when my grandparents passed away and how I felt like foundations in my life had been pulled from under me. September 11th wasn't too far behind their deaths and it brought some far-reaching changes of its own (in case you've been living under a rock and hadn't noticed. Not sure why I had to say that but it's relevant.). The holiday season holds a lot of the markers of the losses in my family. So when you're hearing Joy to the World or Fa la la la la or the Chipmunks and seeing Santa and Holly and Dreidels I'm hearing and seeing people and places and traditions that don't exist anymore.

If you have the urge right now to submit a comment that says something along the lines of "Be grateful for what you have." or "But you have this fabulous opportunity to create your own traditions." I want you to take just a moment to do one little thing before you hit the comment button. Bite me.

I know all that and I've been trying to create new traditions but a tradition of crying alone for 5 hours in the car while one drives towars one's family isn't exactly filling the void. I have tried other things but it's hard to break in on someone else's traditions and it's hard to convince other people to join in when you start something new like that. I don't have a family of my own so it's a delicate balance trying to bring people together on a holiday that's so family-centric. It's also a long way from quick. To be a tradition it has to happen more than once and the holidays being annual it's a bit of a long haul. Some things are going well, I'm finding some things are good. At the same time erosion continues. Traditions keep falling off or being changed beyond recognition. For years I've identified this struggle as a hatred of the season. I guess it's not that, it's more of a longing for it or a wish to be comfortable in it or something I haven't quite grasped yet.

I'm not taking all of these natural soil movements well this year. I'm keeping my head above water and I'm making a point of trying to say positive things and of doing things I know I like and with people I like but I'm simply not doing very well. I sat last week at Jay's show loving the music and the spectacle and that Carmencita and Alita were with me and that we were all singing together. But I was also hating that this was the last Christmas show Jay was going to do and that so many of the people that I invited hadn't come. And I cried. Alita sat on my lap with her head on my shoulder and I rested my arm around her waist and ran my fingers through her hair and I cried and cried and cried. I was so grateful for her being there and for the chance to listen to this music I love and to be at a table where we sang in harmony. I loved sharing this with her, it's something I enjoy and that I think is valuable and the sort of thing that was a tradition in my family a very long time ago and yet I was heartbroken. I was glad she was small enough to fit in my lap and young enough not to notice and turn around and whisper, "Stop snotting in my clean hair you freak!"

I wrote about Kristen because she changed something. Not because of what or how she changed something but just because she did. This season of most years and this year in particular on a scale of 1-10 my Sensitivity to Change meter is set at 11...thousand. So when Chili and Rick moved their blogs, when Kristen's site went under the cloak of invisibility I felt angry. Or at least I thought it was angry. It turns out that it was just one more change at a time when I couldn't deal with what I had already. I feel like if everyone would just stop jiggling the goddamned tram I could get my grip back but everyone else is having a fun and loving the feeling of swaying back and forth over the fucking abyss so they don't really notice that I'm about to hurl. And on the one hand why should they? But on the other dang, please give a girl a break!

Entirely not about anyone else. All about me, these feelings. Kristen just somehow hit the exact right spot and I snapped. It turned out to be a good thing because now, hopefully, I'm that much further along on my journey toward not being an ass monkey from November to January but not a very smooth step.

The worst thing, though, is that I hurt someone else. I am both enormously sorry that I made her feel bad and profoundly grateful for her generous seasonal giving. Something else she said in her e-mail was "this internet thing is weird." Amen, Sister. I know now that I both owe Kristen dinner and really want to have dinner with her but I've screwed it up before we even got to the cocktail hour.


  1. I hate change too. Think it's an only child thing?

    I am currently throwing one pre-change temper tantrum after another, each grieving for its own expected post-change loss.

    And, yes, I signed up for The Change. Jumped through hoops for it. Wrote checks for it. Really WANT it. Just don't want it to change anything.

    (Sorry if this is too much About Me. THAT is an only child thing. Just meant to show you that I GET IT.)

  2. Anonymous3:54 PM

    I hate the deplorable lack of traditions in my family at holiday time. It's always a toss up as to what we are going to do until we do it. Sucks for the kids. My sister beat us to the punch on inviting the family to her house this year. I think we are just going to stay home and start a tradition of not running around like maniacs. I wonder what my wife thinks. Aghhhh!

  3. Anonymous9:07 AM

    I'm sorry that my change of blog venue upset your already tippy apple cart. I'm also sorry that this time of year is so hard for you.

    Let me take this opportunity to let you know that there ARE some things that never change. As I get ready to say goodbye to April, I feel the need to say that you are my friend. I love you. You can hold on to that forever, no matter what.

  4. Anonymous9:08 AM

    Rick, we're taking the reins on Christmas traditions this year JUST because we want the girls to have that kind of foundation. I'm not sure how it's going to go, but I'm looking forward to spending the first Christmas EVER, in my WHOLE life, at home..

  5. All and everything you said...I second. I think you're dealing as well as any of us are dealing, and to be able to sort thru things, disect and break it down so that there is truth and understanding. . . well. That is very grown up and shows much character. Things are what they are. Remember to be nice to yourself, and that a great many of us out here do love you, Christmas after Christmas. Biglove. . .